One would be hard-pressed to find a socio-economic political issue that impacts teens more than the minimum wage. Most teens work at or near the minimum wage, thus, raising the minimum wage means more money in the pockets of working teens. British Columbia recently hiked its minimum wage from $10.45, formerly one of the lowest in Canada, to $10.85.
While raising the minimum to $10.85 is all well and good, it remains lower than Alberta’s minimum, which was raised to $12.20, and is set to rise to a living wage of $15 by 2018. It is also far lower than the minimums in Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, which are set to be hiked to $15 USD (equivalent to $19.80 CAD) by 2017, 2018, and 2020, respectively. All New Yorkers and Californians will also make a $15 living wage by 2021 and 2022.
Naturally, raising the minimum wage has its pros and cons. Critics of the minimum wage argue that raising it too high or too fast will cause unemployment and higher prices, especially in businesses that employ minimum wage workers, because businesses will need to cut their work force or hike prices to make ends meet. If the minimum wage is jacked too high, movie tickets and fast food will be more expensive for teens, and many teens who work at the movies or in fast food may be laid off.
Proponents of the minimum wage contend that while there is a point where raising the minimum wage will have consequences, a small increase of the minimum wage to a living wage will neither cause unemployment nor inflation, let alone the improbable idea of both. Furthermore, proponents contend that raising the minimum wage is necessary in improving the quality of life of workers in low-wage industries without collective bargaining.
A study published by UC Berkley written by economists Sylvia Allegretto, Arindrajit Dube, and Michael Reich, concluded that “minimum wage increases—in the range that have been implemented in the United States—do not reduce employment among teens.” Paul Krugman, 2008 Nobel Laureate in Economics, also supports raising the minimum wage. “The great preponderance of the evidence from these natural experiments points to little if any negative effect of minimum wage increases on employment,” wrote Krugman in his New York Times column.
It is even possible that raising the minimum wage would help business in the long term, not hurt it, because many of the businesses that employ minimum wage workers also provide goods and services to low-income earners whose livelihoods rely on the minimum wage. For example, while Cineplex employs plenty of minimum wage teenagers, minimum wage teenagers will have more money to watch movies at the theater.